2010 Beach closings and advisories up 32 percent from 2009 (update)

Jun 30th, 2011 | By | Category: Top Story

Updated with more complete information from Leah Schmalz at the end of the story …

Save the Sound, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, along with a slew of politicos from U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal to Environment Committee Co-Chair Representative Richard Roy (D-Milford) and Audubon Connecticut, released the findings of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s 2011 Testing the Waters report.

The annual report examines national water quality and beach closings data for 2010, breaking down the information state-by-state and beach-by-beach. This year, Connecticut saw an increase in beach closings and advisories in 2010 to 143, a 32 percent increase from 2009.

“While Connecticut has taken massive strides to improve water quality recently, the tide has not yet turned,” said Leah Schmalz, director of legal and legislative affairs for Save the Sound.

“The number of beach closures and advisory days in Connecticut rose significantly last year and we tumbled to 24th in the nation for the number of bacteria tests exceeding national beach standards,” Schmalz said. “The writing on the wall is clear: we cannot rely on the whims of weather cycles to ensure our beaches stay open, we must stay vigilant and be proactive.

“If we want to enjoy our coastline, eat local seafood, and promote tourism along the shore, rain or shine, we must curb pollution at the source—investment in the state’s Clean Water Fund is solution number one,” Schmalz said. “Thankfully the governor and General Assembly committed significant resources for the next two years, but sustained and consistent funding in years to come will decide whether the citizens of Connecticut will have the clean water they deserve.”

The great majority, 66 percent, of beach closures and posted advisories reported in 2010 were due to stormwater contamination, a condition that can be mitigated through investment in sewer infrastructure upgrades and stormwater management techniques like green infrastructure and landscaping. Sewage leaks or spills, wildlife and unknown sources of contamination account for the remaining 34 percent of beach closures and advisory days.

“This report serves as a stark reminder that we must provide communities in Connecticut with the resources and tools they need to protect our precious natural resources— especially the Long Island Sound,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Limiting the damaging effects of stormwater runoff and pollution is essential to preserve our beaches and wildlife so that they can be there for us and future generations.”

“During the past 20 years, our municipalities and the state upgraded old sewage treatment systems and installed new ones. Mother Nature, however, delivered record-breaking amounts of rain and snow this past year, taxing all our storm and sewage systems and causing localized and statewide damage,” said state Rep. Richard Roy. “The results left our beaches in bad shape and the waters polluted to the point that public health was put at risk.””

The report showed that in 2010, 11 percent of all reported beach monitoring samples in Connecticut exceeded the state’s daily maximum bacterial standards. New London County had the highest exceedance rate, 15 percent, following by Fairfield County, 11 percent, New Haven County, 10 percent, and Middlesex County, 10 percent. The beaches with the highest exceedance rates included:

NEW LONDON COUNTY

Kiddie’s Beach- 54%
Green Harbor Beach- 45%

NEW HAVEN COUNTY

Branford Point Beach- 28%
Anchor Beach (Merwin Point)- 22%
Pent Road Beach- 20%

FAIRFIELD COUNTY

Shady Beach- 24%
Long Beach (Marnick’s)- 24%
Long Beach (Proper)- 22%

MIDDLESEX COUNTY

Town Beach (Clinton)- 21%

CT Environmental Headlines spoke with Leah Schmalz about the situation:

How do the “weather cycles” you mention affect the health of the water at our beaches?

“Right now it is predominately the amount of rain that dictates how much pollution we will have, and in turn if the water quality from our beaches meets or fails testing standards. This is the case because in many communities, stormwater runoff picks up all of the fertilizers and wildlife waste it encounters on the way to the stormdrain and deposits it right into the nearest watercourse (like Long Island Sound); in other communities the stormwater mixes with raw sewage and is discharged into the Sound, or its tributaries, completely untreated.  But we can curb nonpoint source pollutions by acting locally and we can stop raw sewage discharges by funding the Clean Water Fund, as the governor and General Assembly has vowed to do.

What can *we* as residents of a coastal state, do to help prevent the pollution that causes the beaches to close after heavy rains?

Residents can practice Sound-lawncare by minimizing fertilizer and pesticide use, going organic, and installing green infrastructure–like rain barrels, rain gardens, and green roofs–around the home. And in New Haven, they have the unique opportunity to support the creation of a stormwater authority!

Do you know of any good examples, currently or historically, of communities taking beach pollution into their own hands and stemming that tide that you talk about in the press release?

The freedom lawn effort in Milford is a corollary, though it is centered on pesticides, not the bacteria issues that close beaches. But really, New Haven’s attempt to begin a stormwater authority is a perfect example of a municipality trying to do the right thing by its water quality and its residents.

For more on that effort type “stormwater” in the search box on the upper right hand corner of this page.

Read the whole release from CFE and Save the Sound here: http://www.ctenvironment.org/press-releases-details.cfm?ID=394.

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One Comment to “2010 Beach closings and advisories up 32 percent from 2009 (update)”

  1. All this and Connecticut’s own Department of Environmental Protection wants to put a solid waste processing plant run by a private company with questionable individuals right on the banks of the Housatonic in Milford. They don’t seem concerned about runoff from creosote treated wood, antifreeze, leaking garbage trucks, used motor oil, food waste ect ect ect…

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